From the street markets of Goa to the bazaars of Mumbai, bargaining in India is a time-honoured tradition. It is also half the fun of shopping for many tourists. But it can also be tricky if you don’t know how to do it. Here are some tips on how not to get ripped off.
Bargaining Tips at India Bazaars
Bargaining at street markets and bazaars is common in many countries, but the rules vary from place to place. Here are some tips for bargaining in the bazaars of India.
“Start by offering about 50% less than the asking price, but only if you are prepared to pay about 75% to 80% of the full asking price,” advises Marilyn Downing Staff, Founder and President, Asia Transpacific Journeys.
“Keep in mind that antiques might be antiques in name only,” Mariyln says. “And don’t expect a refund should you learn otherwise.
“Caveat emptor applies to every purchase,” Marilyn says.
“Antiques may have been made yesterday. Jewels might be glass. It’s often hard to tell.”
But what if you simply can’t live without it?
“If an item is pricey and you unsure of authenticity, err on the side of caution and forgo the transaction,” Marilyn says.
But if you just adore that copper pot or set of handmade ceramic cups, by all means start bargaining—it’s half the fun. And you’ll take home a keepsake that will remind you of an amazing journey for years to come.”
Fixed Price Vendors
Bargaining can be a bit confusing, especially if you are not to the manner born. This is especially true if you are not familiar with the local currency.
Happily, an increasing number of vendors are adopting a fixed price strategy.
Therefore, if you do not have the stomach for bargaining, consider sticking to fixed price vendors.
India’s Top Five Bazaars
You’ll find bazaars all over India. So which ones are the best? Asia Transpacific Journeys has put together a list of what it considers to be the top five bazaars in India.
Comments on the Indian bazaars are courtesy of Asia Transpacific Journeys.
Dilli Haat, Delhi— Venture through one of the capital city’s hidden treasures, a lesser known outdoor market place made up of distinct areas representing the different states of India and the crafts indigenous to each. Skilled regional artisans eagerly negotiate and sell everything from textile purses to beaded slippers. This is truly a bargain shopper’s paradise.
Chor Bazaar, Mumbai—Rummage to your heart’s content at “Thieves Market,” awash with antiques and vintage coins, bronze, and an almost endless array of both trinkets and treasure.
Market at Meenakshi Temple, Madurai—This temple is the spiritual heart of south India, yet its many carved and painted halls also contain a massive market. Elaborately decorated elephants roam through its corridors, and all manner of goods—from incense to Bollywood posters to fake Rolex watches—is traded at this bazaar.
Night Markets of Goa—A marvelous spectacle replete with painted cows and a myriad of stalls offering a wide range of colorful batik dresses and skirts, and hand-beaded necklaces for only one dollar a strand.
Spice Market, Cochin—The best antiques and spice market in the south of India, this trading center reflects myriad cultures—it was occupied at various times by British, Dutch, Portuguese, and Arab traders. Troll for cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper, and cinnamon of legendary fragrance and quality.
I’ve never been to India, but I would have to say that Mariyln’s advice would hold in the Asian countries I have been to – China, Hong Kong, and Thailand. Generally speaking, offer half of the asking prices – but only if you are willing to meet the vendor half way.
I’d also advise approaching several vendors selling the same merchandise and also checking out fixed price shops to get an idea of the going rate for the types of things you’d like to buy.